Comida Deliciosa em O Arco da Velha ♥

Delicious food at the Restaurante O Arco da Velha in Alvor … never a truer word spoken … or written as the case may be.  If you have never visited this little gem of a town in the Algarve, Portugal, well then you are seriously missing out.  It’s a small fishing town with it’s own harbour and it is gorgeous both by day and by night.  And if you have never eaten in this wonderful restaurant… consider your life incomplete and unfulfilled!  They are couple and family friendly too!

As you approach the restaurant, you are greeted the welcoming, friendly, mustachioed Ricardo – the Owner who also works magic at the Grill all evening (and Oh how I mean that!!!).  He always wears a big smile and it’s his sincerity that comes through in his manners to all the customer that makes you want to give him a big hug.  OK… I think it’s clear that I like Ricardo  🙂  He is part of an amazing team of course – his lovely wife Josephine works in the kitchen inside and they run a system like clockwork.  And the food… Oh My Oh My Oh My THE FOOD!!!! I have only just returned from Alvor and I am already having withdrawal… the food is simply prepared, simply served and simply…divine.  There is also the handsome and charming Marco, who manages the Restaurant and service which is always excellent.  The fact that their clientele consists of locals and tourists – mostly repeat customers – returning for the food and the welcome they receive each visit speaks for itself – just check out the reviews on TripAdvisor!  It’s not just me!!

Fresh local fish is key to the menu in O Arco da Velha – Seabass, Stonebass, Seabream, Red Mullet, Squid, Prawns… whatever has been caught fresh will be on the menu.  As I said the key here is simplicity – with these kinds of treasures available what else could squid.jpgyou do.  However, don’t mistake simplicity for easy. The skilled staff are amazing at what they do.  From Ricardo ♥ on the grill cooking each different piece of fish to perfection or meat separately on the meat grill, to Josephine in the kitchen with other staff cooking vegetables to perfection, creating delicious salad, preparing starters such as baby squid in garlic and chilli oil (Oh My God…these are so completely YUMMY!!!), Prawns in garlic oil (also Delicious!) to various other delicious options.  Or you can opt for Covers which include carrots in garlic, olives, sardine and tuna pate (both gorgeous) , local cheese (really tasty) with crusty bread… I’ve probably tasted most of the menu by now and there’s nothing I haven’t liked yet!

Mains also include meat dishes such as steak, chicken and lamb (which many of my extended family members have sampled to their great delight) or rice dishes such as Cataplana.  I always go for the fresh fish though – it’s so good here there’s really no other choice for me.  You make your fish choice from the fresh selection of the day and your fish will be shown to you so you can see it’s freshness and beauty.  Then it is delivered to Ricardo ♥ to work his magic!  The flavour when it comes off the grill is so moreish and it is served with big wedges of lemon – I am seriously making myself so hungry as I type this!! It also comes with garlic butter – the real thing with chunks of garlic for you garlic-lovers out there!!  Each fish is expertly de-boned by Marco or one of his staff before serving to your table.  The choice of sides are rice, potatoes, chips and vegetables or salad from the kitchen – always fresh and always delicious.  Desserts range from Strawberries and cream to icecreams to Tiramisu (Scrumptious!) to more traditional Portuguese delicacies such as Almond tart (Oh So Yummy!).

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Chamine

They have a great selection of wines to choose from but I’m going to share our favourite with you – a deliciously, fruity and flavourful red called Chaminè.  Marco will make recommendations depending on your taste, if you wish, but he knows this is our go to tipple 🙂  And of course, you should give the Green Wine a try while in Portugal – crisp, fresh, ice cold – it’s a refreshing alternative to white for a change.

At the end of the meal, it’s not all bad news either… along with the very reasonable bill comes complimentary port for all the adults… never though I would be a Port person but I am!! It’s yummy!

And so… we always leave with satisfied bellies and smiles on our happy faces…

 

You can’t really knock that now… can you?

Get yourself to Portugal… to Alvor… you won’t regret it!

 

Note: Photos all my own with the exception of the Restaurant front which is from O Arco Da Velha’s Facebook page @RestauranteOArcoDaVelha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brasserie Sixty6 … You little Minx!

This is a restaurant on South Great Georges Street in Dublin 2 that I have been wanting to visit for the longest time (one on my very long list!) and on Tuesday evening, I finally got there!

From entering the establishment, the lighting is subtle and warm and the atmosphere has an audible hum of chat and laughter that doesn’t offend the ears…quite the opposite in fact…it draws you in.  We were met by a friendly and smiley host who found our reservation in moments and brought us to an area where we had a choice of seats.  Seated happily, he pointed out the Cocktail menu, gave us the A La Carte menu and also the Pre Theatre menu.  Of course, very importantly, he provided us with the wine list… and oh what a list it is!  My friend and I decided to go with the Pre-Theatre menu which is excellent value at just €27.95 for three courses.  This is available ALL night from Sunday to Wednesday & until 6.30pm on Thursdays to Saturday and lunchtime too on request.  There are excellent choices too with five starters, five mains and four desserts to choose from. Ohhhh the dilemma of what to choose… it took me a little while, I can tell you!  A really lovely waitress came and brought us water and some yummy grained bread and butter.  We chose from the extensive wine list the Finca Museum Vinea Crianza, Tinta del Pais (Tempranillo) (Cigales, Spain 2011) as we both really enjoy red – it was quite exquisite.

I finally decided on Wild Mushroom Soup with parmesan, truffle oil and pickled enoki to start – it was absolutely delicious.  We both had the same.  It tasted purely of Wild mushroom, which I know is stating the obvious, but too often that is not what a soup ends up tasting of…what it’s supposed to be!  The garnishes only added to the flavour and did not overpower the natural earthiness of the dish at all.

For main, I ordered the chargrilled 6oz Sirloin of beef with bearnaise sauce, crisp watercress salad, thick cut fries and pesto rolled greens at a €5 supplement but let me add that it was worth every cent.  My request for medium steak was noted, delivered and it was the perfect size to enjoy without feeling overstuffed; especially after having had soup to start.  My friend had ordered the same but well done and was very happy with the quality of the food.

And dessert…well…this is where things might get a little…hot under the collar!!!  My friend order the Peanut Butter Mousse with chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream and I won’t lie… it was fabulously decadent.  There was lots of sighing and Mmmm-ing going on at the table.  But the pièce de résistance for me was the Pecan Pie with creme anglaise and chocolate ice cream…I quite literally had a Sweet Pie-gasm in my seat!!! It was lusciously gratifying with the crunch of pecan against the buttery, syrupy filling and the crumble of the sweet pastry.  Even thinking about it now, I am weak with desire!!!

Ahem…anyhoooo… the staff were at all times attentive yet unobtrusive and the background music just loud enough to keep other conversations, and our own, private – exactly what you want really.  I apologise for the lack of photo evidence but everything was eaten by the time I remembered to take any photos! 🙂

My only negative is that though the toilets were clean to the eye, the odour left much to be desired.  That’s a problem very easily fixed though but worth mentioning all the same.

Thank you very much Brasserie Sixy6 for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  I really, really liked this place and I will, most definitely, be revisiting.

 

 

Take me to the Island…

….because it’s so damn beautiful here.  I spent a week on Inis Oirr, the smallest of the 20160703_135314 Aran Islands off the coast of Galway in the West of Ireland at the beginning of July.  Let me tell you, without doubt, it is one of the most wonderful places on this earth.  If you haven’t been – you must visit.  If you have been – then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I was there with my two boys, Jack and Daniel (and before you ask, it wasn’t a deliberate decision to name them after my favourite bourbon…Cross my heart!! 😉 ) and we were sharing a house with a friend and her daughter.

So I go to Inis Oirr really because of my Spiritual Guru – my dearest friend Paula; who moved Facebook-20160705-123950 (2)here from Dublin to marry an Islander Paidraic.  What a change in life?  Yes indeed but she loves it!!  They have three beautiful children and she absolutely loves living on the Island.  Paula is like my Earth Mama… she bakes beautiful cakes and breads, she cooks sensational food and she is a Reiki Practitioner. She also writes from her soul (Blog @donkeyshindlegs check her out or you’re seriously missing out).  Don’t get me wrong – she gets frustrated and pissed off like any of the rest of us.  And I know there are times when having three kids and a very Quiet Man must be exhausting and exasperating but she has found her Zen.  She is the most wonderful, caring and patient Woman though (I know you’re going to read this Paula so just a reminder…you’re the whole package!!) and…she is my wonderful, sexy, beautiful BFITWWU!

20160703_135541The Island itself is a thing to behold…rugged beauty hewn from rock and etched in luscious greens and smoked silver greys.  The island is around 3km x 3km with rolling hills (that sometimes feel like Croagh Patrick but they are so far from it, in truth!!) and really, it’s easily covered by foot or by bike (a word of caution if cycling however, the hills, though small are steep and can be a recipe for disaster for children on bikes even with helmets – I’ve witnessed numerous visits from the Air Ambulance helicopter!).  Taking a stroll around to the lighthouse or out to the shipwreck of the Plassy (seen on the intro to the wonderful Father Ted) lets you see Inis Oirr in all it’s diversity come alive.  The uniquely built walls hugging the narrow roads leading past Aras Eanna – the Arts Centre on the Island (another must see) takes you through the Island around small high walled fields with perhaps one or two cattle with calves within.  And the sunsets… Sweet Mother of Divine!!  They are to die for!  The colours are exceptional and on a clear day, I really mean it, you can can see forever across the golden lit sea.

There are a number of places to eat on Inis Oirr too… all of them of great quality and ooohhh so tasty!  My favourite has to be ‘Teach an Tae’ – a cafe run by the loveliest woman Alissa and her husband Michael. I cannot visit the Island without at least one visit (per day) to this delectable establishment.  The lunches are delicious and the cakes are without comparison…OH MY SWEET HEAVEN!!! Everything I have tasted has been scrumptious though one of my front runners has to be the Carrot Cake…soft, sweet, spiced, luscious

 

and topped with dreamy, creamy frosting.  I wonder do they do postal orders??? lol  While there with Jack and Daniel, I had the Island Tart – a savoury tart of baby potatoes, herbs, eggs and feta or goats cheese – YUM!  Jack had the Fish of the day – fresh caught Pollock and Daniel had Potato and Leek soup – everything freshly made on the premises.  I had Lemon Poppy Seed cake with vanilla ice cream – Lush!  The boys had brownies and I didn’t even get a chance to get a photo!! lol  The Staff are soooooooo lovely too… I just can’t say enough nice things about this place… it’s a must if you’re on Inis Oirr.  Rory’s is gorgeous too and the Hotel and Tigh Ned’s do lovely food… to be honest – I haven’t had a bad meal anywhere!

We visited Aran Seaweed Baths & Spa and were looked after by the wonderful Annette and it was so wonderful.  She is the most attentive, lovely and, I might add, patient lady having to deal with three children in one go!!  We all had a seaweed bath and it was to die for!!  I would highly recommend it for de-stressing and your skin  is left so soft… I want to go again!  If you want some pampering then Annette is the answer!

 

Finally, there is the secret beach… which for obvious reasons I can’t tell you where it is… but let’s face it … the Island is 3km x 3km so you wouldn’t have a hard time finding it! lol It’s a place of zoning out and disconnection and it’s perfect.  And Spike – Paula’s dog – well… he just loves it there… he’ll spend a whole day at the beach, eating rocks (no… he has no teeth left!), chasing waves and then he’ll flake on the couch for 24 hours!!! He’s got the right idea!!

 

Don’t wait… visit Inis Oirr… you won’t regret it!

 

 

 

See…the problem is that God gave Man both a penis…and a brain…

…and only enough blood supply to work one at a time!

The Late, Great Robin Williams

(Possibly not the exact wording but the exact idea)

Now, I’m not exactly sure which one is in the driving seat when it comes to the subject of Pro-Choice.  I know for a fact that there are men out there who believe in Women’s autonomy and intelligence in general but once we enter the Twilight Zone of fertility, reproduction, fetus and potential babies – the Neanderthal button gets switched on for some and suddenly it’s all thumping their chests and grunting “Me know better… Me Man… Me STRONG!!! Girl STUPID!!!  Me Decide”  Note:  Many of these are suited and politically inclined.  Ahem…Well let’s get something very clear …

I am woman

Across this Island of ours, we have a virulent ongoing debate that stirs every persons blood.  Everyone has their opinion.  And that is everyone’s right.  However, when it comes to dictating to others what choices they should make, it becomes another issue entirely.  I have been trying to think of a comparative example for men but it’s not possible so this is an example to demonstrate a point… bear with me boys!

Imagine the 8th Amendment was about the protection of sperm… given that without it, life cannot be created.  And through the 8th Amendment; masturbation was made illegal – well… it does waste those poor life giving swimmers now doesn’t it.  It’s not the same for women, they can masturbate all they like because nothing get’s wasted in their practice! Score!!!  So pleasuring yourself becomes an openly criminal act.  A quick hand shandy is no longer tolerated because you don’t know who you can trust to keep your secret.  And don’t even think about getting around the legislation by getting your friends to do your hand washing for you… by virtue of the fact that wasting sperm is illegal under the 8th Amendment – accomplices to the fact can be charged along with you.  Don’t worry, if you get desperate enough, if you feel that you can’t live without charming the one-eyed snake, you can put your case forward to a panel of medical practitioners (including two psychiatrists) who will decide if you’re actually desperate enough to be justified in having a wank.  If not… it’s the Male Chastity Belt for you for the next 9 months … or until all your sexual urges have dissipated… sound fun!?!?   I didn’t think so.

chastity

You can say that this doesn’t relate… that it’s not the same… that I should stop being ridiculous.  I’m not saying it’s the exact same because there is nothing the exact same.  Just consider the effect of your autonomy being taken from you.  Think about it.

#Repealthe8th

The Sorry Syndrome

When it comes to the apology game, I’ve been hit with a double whammy!! The first comes simply with being Irish.  So many of us carry that ingrained necessity to constantly appear humble which has often translated into every second phrase being ‘Sorry’ or ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘Sorry but…’ when other words or phrases are actually more appropriate like ‘Excuse me’ or indeed no utterance at all.  Sometimes superfluous mutterings are better left unsaid.  But that’s not our way – we Irish, tend to talk and have mastered the art of conversation; while also acquiring the delicate articulation of the mea culpa.

My second whammy is that I’m a woman…Sorry but it’s true! (see what I did there!).  And I lied…I’m not one bit sorry.  The thing is that as girls, as teenagers, as women in this country of ours – we have been programmed to apologise for so much…for having an appetite, for talking, for talking softly, for talking loudly, for laughing loudly, wearing imagesHQP6MVHW.jpgclothes that WE like, for having hairy legs or hairy lips or hairy pits, for farting, for burping, for pooing, for drinking, for liking beer, for smoking, for liking whiskey, for working, for liking working, for sex, for liking sex, for loving sex, for wanting sex, for wanting more sex, for wanting no sex, for having brains, for having opinions … I could go on for quite some time here.  If you have never thought about it… take a moment and consider it.  I’ll find it hard to believe if you tell me that as a woman, you’ve never felt you had to make an apology or excuse in some shape or form for at least one of the above… that you’ve never opted out of wearing that sleeveless top just because you hadn’t got around to shaving under your arms last night – that in itself is an apology & we’ve all done it; we’ve all let that judgement, that societal bullshit make a decision for us instead of saying ‘So Fucking What!’  Show love, respect, confidence and care for yourself in the words you use to yourself and about yourself.

When I went to live in NY all those years ago (don’t make me say how many! :-D) I practically apologised for my own existence on an ongoing imagesbasis.  It was ridiculous and I didn’t even realise it until one of my flat mates pointed it out to me.  I was shocked at the time but I’ve never forgotten it and I’m so glad she did (Thank you Owl! X).  It took a long time to really break the cycle but I do not apologise now unless I am genuinely sorry for something that I need to apologise for.  Thankfully, that doesn’t happen too often as I try to live by the ‘Treat others as you wish to be treated’ mantra.  My point in this whole post is … I’m NOT sorry…not now and never again and I hope if you identify with any of this that you’re not sorry either!

Unless this Government makes me sorry to be Irish by continuing to ignore the autonomy and the rights of Women in this State… but that’s another post altogether…

Laters for more rambling musings 🙂

Helena x

 

Back in the Game :-)

 

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Well, I’m happy to say that I’m back to writing again and I’m working to a better schedule now too.  More food posts, more random posts and of course, more topical stuff too…whatever gets my blood boiling or makes me laugh uncontrollably!  Tune in tomorrow for the first of many!

And please LIKE my page…if you like it… and COMMENT if you feel so inclined! 🙂

Laters!

Helena x

 

The Bank has a veto…but we have no choice

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Here’s an update on my Circuit Training post… and the beat goes on…

The decision came back last week from our bank on our mortgage proposal that we submitted through the IMHO – the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation.  We’ve been given a test period of three months where we have to pay the equivalent of our full mortgage payment after which time they’ll consider the long term solution.  It appears there was no consideration to the submitted plan and it also appears that they consider the fact that my husband went from a salary of close to 50K per year down to the Invalidity Pension to still keep us within the ‘affordability’ range.  The Bank rang to ensure I received the Test period letter and the person I spoke with from the legal section in the Bank went through the conditions.  The full amount must be paid within each month, if this doesn’t happen then I “…better have a solicitor, cos it’s going straight back to court…”.  I asked whether they had considered the plan and whether the change in income was a real consideration.  She responded that if I provided that information, then they must have.  I don’t mind telling you, I was completely gutted…to the point of tears at my desk in work.  This person telling me what I had to do to keep the only home my kids have known had no idea who I was, what my case was, why I was in these circumstances.  It was the coldest and most heartless conversation I have had with any one…ever.  I hung up unable to utter another word.

I contacted our rep in the IMHO and I have to admit that they were not in the slightest bit useful.  I explained the Test period letter and the amounts we have been told to pay and they said ok well you just have to cut back and make the payments.  In utter disbelief I pleaded with him asking whether we could appeal the Banks decision.  He said that an appeal in these circumstances only work if we have new information to add or if there’s been a significant change in circumstances.  He said that to appeal would just be saying to the Bank that we don’t accept their ‘proposal’ and we would be back to the courts.  Yet again, I was reduced to tears.  Tears of frustration and fear and anger.  He was quiet and he said to take some time to consider things.  I replied “Consider what?  We have no choice” and for the second time in one day, I hung up on someone.

I know we’re not alone in this trap.  There are other people out there who have been treated the same, are being treated the same.  And it’s wrong.  We don’t want to abandon our responsibilities, we want to work out a solution.  This doesn’t happen when you don’t actually have any say in the negotiations, when you have no voice.  And just so you know, I don’t cry over things I can’t control.  I put those things down to life sorting out the shit from the silver and I know there’s better to come.  My tears are for my family and the distress this could bring upon them – the real people who are affected by the arbitrary decisions of a financial institution.

So… tomorrow I go down the ISI – the Insolvency Service Ireland route.  There has to be more … there has to be options.

I will not be backed into a corner.

Stay tuned.